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The fact-based story of the half-white Antelope Comanche chief Kwahadi--trying to keep his People's spirit intact during the devastating transition from freedom to the humiliations of Reservation life. (In Season of the Yellow Leaf, 1983, Jones reconstructed the last clays of the free Comanches while following the early life of Kwahadi's white mother--captured by the Indians at age eleven, recaptured by her own people 17 years later.) Jones narrator here is tough-spined, soft-centered Liverpool Morgan: interpreter, veteran of wars and wagon trains, a civilian working for the Fourth Cavalry at Fort Sill. And it's in 1875 that Morgan first sees Kwahadi--defeated, yet proudly leading his conquered people while carrying a lance ""fully ten feet long and streaming with human hair"" (bringing to Morgan's mind much greater white atrocities). Sadly Morgan observes the Indians' welcome to the Reservation--the men disarmed, jailed, thrown chunks of raw meat, lodge-poles erected on the bleak ground. ""So it was over. The end of a short, flashing culture. . . the dancing for victory, the singing to the buffalo."" Then, because of his reputation for ""fairness,"" Morgan is sought out by old Otter Tongue for help in repossessing a sacred article, and acquiring breeding stock for the decimated herds of ponies. So eventually widower Morgan will become the friend of Kwahadi, now chief of hunters and warriors whom the whites expect to train for agriculture, docility, and Christianity. ""I have to find them gods that work in the white man's world but remind them of who they are,"" says Kwahadi. And to Morgan Kwahadi assigns the task of finding his white mother--a quest that will take Morgan from Comanche tribal sites to Fort Worth, to an old friend who sets him on the right path to the grave of the woman called ""Chosen"". . . who died exiled from the People at age 28. (Morgan's friendships among the Comanches will bring him a new wife, and his life is saved from a vicious enemy by a Comanche brave.) Jones has created a convincing dusty bustle around Fort Sill, with fair and often affectionate portraits of the whites--friends and hangers-on. And if his Kwahadi portrait is a bit outsize, his focus on the plight of a conquered people, destined to be kenneled and despised, is quill-sharp. With gritty/sentimental Morgan as an attractive guide: another rich, if relatively undramatic, Jones historical.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1984
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston